Golden Knights use, embrace pressure to open season 3-0-0

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
The Golden Knights have opened the season 3-0-0 while outscoring opponents by a combined final of 12-3.

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pietrangelo vividly remembers what St. Louis’ locker room felt like after the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2020.

The Blues were out to prove to one another – and their critics – that the miraculous second-half run en route to the title was no fluke.

Fast forward to this year’s version of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Same vibe, and the veteran defenseman is fine with the pressure that comes with it.

“I think you got to embrace that pressure,” Pietrangelo said. “I think that’s what made us good last year is we missed the playoffs the year before. And I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to prove to each other that we’re a good hockey team, what we’re capable of. I don’t think those thoughts ever wavered amongst our group.

“I think you can almost argue there’s more pressure (this year) because you want to prove to everybody that it wasn’t a fluke, you want to have a good season, you want to start well, you want to get into the regular season and play well.”

So far, so good.

Vegas is 3-0-0 after winning for the third time in five nights on Saturday, a 4-1 home victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

The Golden Knights have looked good in all three victories. And while there have been moments they were sluggish, like the first 10 minutes of their home opener after a whirlwind of events leading up to puck drop that included a banner raising that night, they’ve looked as if they’re just picking up where left off in June.

“Yeah, I mean you obviously have less time off from game play, playing until the middle of June,” star forward Jack Eichel said. “So, shorter summer. I thought everyone did a good job coming back here in good shape. Just kind of trying to pick up where we left off.”

The Golden Knights have endured a couple of injuries, but for the most part, appear ready to take on the brunt of 79 more games and defend their title formidably thanks to the same type of depth that led them to the title.

“Whenever you’re going to deal with injuries and guys being out of the lineup, I think that’s something that we take a lot of pride in as an organization having depth and guys coming in and stepping in and making an impact,” Eichel said. “I think our team prides ourselves a lot on the depth and rolling four lines trying to wear the other team down.”

It’s certainly been a collective effort, as 18 skaters have registered at least one point for the Golden Knights, and 10 of them scored at least one goal.

Eichel echoed Pietrangelo’s sentiment, in that it’s good for everyone back from last season to embrace the pressure if they plan on making another run while hoping to be the first repeat Stanley Cup since Tampa Bay did it two years ago, and just the third time to do it in 26 years.

“I think you want it a bit,” Eichel said. “I think every night it’s an opportunity to prove ourselves. You look at last year, I think maybe some people wrote us off and didn’t expect us to get where we did. Last year after proving what we can do as a group, I think we should be on everyone’s radar. And with that, I think there comes a bit of pressure.”

Both Eichel and Pietrangelo said the Knights expect every team in the league to give them their best every game, as it should be.

“I think it’s gonna bring the best out in our group,” Eichel added. “I think the guys in our room like to rise to the occasion and it should be no different here heading into this season.”

Added coach Bruce Cassidy: “To me the pressure is build your game all year, be good, be a contender, be a favorite going into April, build our game so we’re a contender all year so people say, ‘Yup they got a chance now.’

“We would like to be one of those teams in April, but we got to get there. Every team wants to be one of those teams, it doesn’t always work out. … We’d like to be that team that’s knocking on the door every year. It’s not easy to do. So yes. I don’t mind the pressure at all.”